patent application

Utility Patents vs. Design Patents

When new inventions are introduced and pitched, there is often talk of utility patents and design patents. A single product or invention can be awarded both a utility and a design patent, as they are two completely different entities that provide different types of protection.

A utility patent:

  • protects the function of the invention or product
  • is the most common type of patent
  • provides the most broad protection
  • takes two or three years before it provides protection
  • can protect multiple variations of the product

A design patent:

  • protects the appearance of the invention or product
  • is cheaper to acquire than a utility patent
  • only takes one to two years before providing protection
  • does not protect any functional features of the product
  • is very specific in protection (someone can get around the patent by changing something very small and ornamental on the product)

Not all products require both types of protection, but some certainly do. It’s important to evaluate your product idea and decide what features are most important to protect. Most inventors want to protect the function of their product idea, so utility patents are almost always chosen first. At the same time, some design features are so unique and so special, certain inventors may choose to ensure that their design is protected. Choosing to apply for both a utility and a design patent can be a complicated process, so patent attorneys are recommended to prevent any loopholes or administrative mistakes.

Both types of patents can be applied for at the US Patent Office, and products will be labeled as “patent pending” while the application is being reviewed.


The Importance of Patent Drawings

As an inventor, your work is not done until you have secured a patent to protect your product from others who want to copy it. In order to apply for a patent, you must go through a process that involves quite a few steps. One of the required steps is to provide drawings of your invention or product along with your patent application.

Only one drawing is absolutely required, but more may be helpful. The people reviewing your application will want to see the invention from different angles, as well as the various components it is made from. A good patent drawing can also demonstrate the uses for the product and the functionality of it. 

There is no rule saying that you, the inventor, must do this drawing yourself. There are dedicated patent illustrators who will take your idea and visualize it on paper. They are not always easy to find, but most patent attorneys have those types of contacts. Even if you are an excellent artist, it is wise to have a patent illustrator do your final drawings for your application because he will know exactly what the review committee wants to see. He will know what to highlight and where to add the most detail. As the inventor, you may get caught up in certain aspects of your product that you are really proud of, but that may not be of significance in terms of getting your patent approved.

Securing a patent is quite a lot of work from beginning to end, but do not be afraid to consult professionals along the way. You want to make sure you follow every step of the process flawlessly so that you can get your patent in place as soon as possible. Protect your hard work and creativity!